Dogs will have their first estrous (reproductive or heat) cycle when they reach puberty. A dog's heat time or ‘’heat’’ is a female dog's rutting season, a time in which a female dog can become pregnant if it is allowed to mate with a male dog. Male dogs don’t have heat time and once they become sexually mature they can produce offspring at any time.
When is the rutting season?
On average, puberty (or sexual maturity) is reached at about 6-12 months of age, but this can vary by breed. Smaller breeds tend to have their first estrous cycle at an earlier age, while large and giant breeds may not come into heat for the first time until they reach eighteen months to two years of age. Differences between breeds are quite big - sometimes a dog can be almost two years of age before the first heat starts.
During rutting season, a female dog's behavior can change. They can be tired, in a world of their own, more restless than normal, bark more frequently, become a picky eater and when outside be especially interested in other dogs and tempting smells. They can also pee indoors even if out of character for them - the dog could during this time be subject to more time outdoors than usual. All changes in behavior are completely normal and usually the strongest changes happen during the first heat.
How long do they last?
The rutting season lasts approximately a month at a time. There are three different stages: preheat, heat and post-heat. In between heats is a rest period during which a dog cannot become pregnant. The duration of the rest period is typically six months, but it differs a lot between different dog breeds.
The first stage of the rutting season is pre-heat, which lasts from three days to about two weeks. During this period the dog’s genitals swell, the follicles develop and the bleeding related to the heat begins from the dogs vulva. It’s very individual how strong the bleeding is - in some it is barely noticeable and in others there is more mess. At this point male dogs are already interested in females, but females don’t let males get too close and reject the males attempts to mate. An unneutered male and a female experiencing preheat should not be left alone together because it is not entirely impossible that the male should impregnate the female. The female should for the entirety of the heat be kept away from unneutered males to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.
The actual heat lasts about a week. During this time the female is very submissive, and pregnancy is extremely likely. The female can be very interested in males at this time. At this stage pregnancy is very likely and if your intention is to breed puppies this is the time for it.
The last stage is post-heat. At this stage the swelling and bleeding slowly pass. During post-heat the female will no longer let the male close and reject all her suitors. The female can be more tired, but this is normal. On the other hand, if the dog starts licking more than usual, drinking more, peeing more or has higher temperature at worst they could have a uterine infection. If you suspect your dog has a uterine infection you must contact a vet posthaste. A uterine infection requires veterinary care.
If your dog has become pregnant during heat, they shall give birth 58-72 days after conception. If the dog hasn’t become pregnant it is possible that the dog can be subject to a false pregnancy. During a false pregnancy the dog's own body tricks them into thinking they are pregnant. The false pregnancy passes eventually and usually there is nothing to worry about. During a false pregnancy a female dog can carry toys more lovingly and make them a nest. The female might also produce milk, but the false pregnancy passes on its own when the aftereffects of the heat wear off.
During the rest period the dog’s hormone functions are normal and the dog cannot get pregnant until the next heat.
If you have no intention of letting your female dog have puppies, you can take them to the vet and have them sterilized. After sterilization the dog will no longer experience rutting season.
FINNERO products for heat
FINNERO heat pants are washable diapers (“panties”) for dogs in heat. It is put on the dog so that your surfaces and interior textiles are protected from the bleeding in your home and on the go. The heat panties also work with urinary incontinence for neutered females or elderly dogs.
If you have a female dog, it is recommended you get the heat pants early so the dog can get used to them before the heat. By putting the heat pants on the dog for a little while at a time and rewarding them the heat will pass without any problems.
Eeva Ahervuo's career began in 1987 with a partnership in Töölö´s Pet Shop in Helsinki, Finland. In 1995 she started working in Faunatar pet shop chain, where she was a marketing manager. After wanting some new opportunities in work, she joined FINNERO's marketing in 2022. She is a animal attendant and she has numerous professional educations in marketing. However, dogs have had their very own place in Eeva's heart for over 40 years.
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